What to do to get legally married

I have been marrying couples in Nevada, California, and Washington since 2014. And here are some tidbits of information on what you need to get legally married!
To get married, there are several things that you need, and this may seem like a simple list, but it really isn’t. You really won’t believe how often steps are missed or someone tries to bypass one of them.

The License

  • First, you need a valid marriage license. The license cannot be expired, and it must be issued for the state you are getting married in.
  • The license needs to be on the premises where you are getting married.
  • It cannot be back at the hotel, your home, or anywhere else.
  • It must be there, at the wedding site, and the officiant needs to see it and make sure it’s valid before the ceremony begins.
  • If it isn’t there, or you forgot to purchase one, it actually changes the wording of the ceremony from a ‘wedding’ to a ‘commitment’ ceremony. We are not allowed to tell you and your guests that you are married or at any time during the ceremony, imply that it is a legal wedding ceremony.
  • And please don’t fill out the license. It’s the responsibility of the officiant/celebrant to fill it out.

The Officiant / Celebrant

  • You need someone to marry you. This varies by state, and most states have very relaxed laws for officiants. However, know the laws. In Nevada and New York, for example, you need a licensed officiant. In North Carolina, your officiant cannot be from certain on-line ordinations.
  • Look them up and make sure they are able to perform your ceremony prior to hiring them.
  • Fines can be steep depending on the county the license was issued from.
  • If a couple chooses to have their wedding officiated by someone who is not legally authorized, their marriage may not be considered valid under Nevada law. In such cases, the couple may face legal challenges in the future, such as difficulties with obtaining spousal benefits, inheritance rights, or other legal protections associated with marriage.
  • I do recommend hiring a professional no matter what state you are in, however, as they are familiar with the logistics of a wedding, writing a ceremony, keeping you calm, and making your day special, which are all priceless services.


  • You must be sober and not under duress.
  • I’ve had people ask me if I ever performed a ‘shotgun wedding.’ The answer is ‘no!’ If someone was pointing a gun at a couple, they would not be consenting to the marriage. I couldn’t legally perform that wedding.

The Legal Requirements to Have in Your Ceremony

  • This next requirement sounds logical but actually is one of those things that is often requested to be skipped. It’s the legal part of the ceremony, called ‘the declaration of intent.’ It’s the only part that is required by law.
  • You must agree to marry the other party. It has to happen, and the answer must be able to be acknowledged so a witness can sign a license after the ceremony. It can be fun, traditional, long, or short, but you must agree to marry each other!
  • This brings me to a service I hear people ask for and talk about a lot:‘Signing the paperwork.’
    • This is not an actual service. It doesn’t exist.
  • If you need to get married and have a license filled out by an officiant, you need to get married.
    • This requires you to agree to marry each other! At minimum, that’s two questions, asked by the officiant, answered by each of the parties.
  • If this doesn’t happen, and paperwork is filled out and a witness signs, you have multiple parties committing a fraud on a government document.
  • The officiant didn’t actually marry anyone, and the witness didn’t actually see anyone get married.
  • Why is this important? If down the road a divorce lawyer finds out about this not happening the proper way, the validity of the marriage can be called into question.
  • You don’t want to be caught up in that mess!

After the Ceremony

  • After the ceremony, the license will be completed by the officiant, and witness information will be collected/signed.
  • This cannot be done prior to the ceremony.
    • Obviously, a witness cannot sign a document saying they saw something happen that hasn’t happened yet!
  • Then the officiant will record the license within the allotted time which is usually 10 days.
  • Recording the license is the officiant’s responsibility. If you wish to record the license, ask when you purchase your license if you can do this. The issuing authority will let you know if this is allowed in that county. Then, of course, let your officiant know you plan to do this.

It’s a simple and easy list to follow. For more information on getting legally married in the States of Nevada, where I am based, or California (where I work often), please contact me!